Friday, November 30, 2012

London: Days 72-76

Following my return from Rome Sunday night, I readied myself for what was to come: two weeks of work in order to finish my assessments on time.  Monday was the first day like that, as I had no classes but was downtown by 11 AM following my run and breakfast in order to get part of one of my three remaining papers left.  I was able to do so successfully, and went to bed that night following a bit of relaxation and a walk in my neighborhood.
Tuesday was more of the same, except I had classes most of the day and then we closed the night with our closing dinner as a group.  We went to a very nice french restaurant off Oxford Street, looking at the beautiful and famous Christmas lights that line the shopping road in the heart of the City.  While there we had a great meal together and even saw a famous actor, whose name I neither remember nor could spell.  We didn't get home until around 11, at which point I went to bed.
Wednesday and Thursday were more of the same, with classes and work all day as my time in London continued to wind down and my need to finish work mounted.  By Friday morning, I had been able to finish all but the edits for four of my papers, meaning I had one more to write.  I spent Friday doing some Christmas shopping and getting about half of that paper done, but couldn't go for much of a walk that evening because of how cold it had gotten in the city - down to about 35 degrees during the day.  That night, I cooked a big dinner for myself and a friend and we watched "The Departed" as I got ready for a Saturday of work and sports, with both Man U and Alabama holding big games Saturday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rome: Days 69-71

Friday morning, the day of my trip to Rome, I woke up at 6:30 in order to go for my run and eat breakfast with more than enough time to get to the airport on time.  I was out of my flat by 8:15, which was a good thing because the tube was amazingly packed during rush hour on a Friday.  After reaching Liverpool Street station, I took the Stansted Express to the airport and then boarded my flight to Rome. I landed at Ciampino airport, which was a polar opposite to Zurich a week prior.  Ciampino is the smaller of Rome's two airports, and is very small and urban looking.  I then took a bus to the city center, and my hotel was a short walk from the drop off point.  By the time I checked in, it was almost 6:30, and I decided to spend the evening by walking around in the lovely 55 degree-weather.  I walked all the way down to the Trevi Fountain, which took about 30 minutes, and poked my head around there for awhile before walking back and having dinner at a pizzeria right across from my hotel at 9:30.  After that, I went to bed exhausted.
I woke up at 9 on Saturday and went across the street again to have breakfast before walking downtown in what was a beautiful day: 65 degrees and sunny.  I walked all the way down to the Colosseum and signed up there for a combo tour of the amphitheater and the nearby Ancient Roman Forum, which cost me 28 euros but lasted until 5.  After my tours were completed, I walked all the way back to my hotel, rested for a bit, and then turned right back around to meet some of my Trinity friends for dinner at 8.  We went to a hole-in-the-wall but very famous pizzeria across the Tiber River for dinner, with more fresh pizza and one of the most interesting (but delicious) desserts I have ever had: a Nutella and ricotta cheese calzone.  We went for a drink afterwords before I went back to the hotel via the metro and went to bed around 12:30.
Sleeping in until 10 on Saturday, I had breakfast at 11 and then hit my final tourist stop of the trip: the Parthenon.  After walking all the way to this ancient temple and then back, it was time to get on my bus to the airport.  Unfortunately, my plane was almost a full hour late, so I was stuck in the airport for awhile before taking off for London.  After landing, getting my passport stamped for the final time, and taking the train, I went home and did some grocery shopping before writing this blog and going to bed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

London: Days 65-68

After getting in late on Sunday night and not sleeping until 2 AM, I slept in a little bit until 10 on Monday morning before waking up, going for my run, and eating breakfast.  After breakfast I went down to the school building in order to crank out one of my papers, and I got a majority of it done before going home and buying groceries.  I put my groceries away and watched some TV before heading out to dinner with a friend, and we went to a very good Italian restaurant that was a short walk away from our flat.  We didn't get back until 10, at which point I was tired enough to go to bed.
Tuesday was a class day, meaning I was up by 8 and in class after my run and breakfast by 10:30.  When classes were released at 5:30, I went home and cooked dinner before watching TV and continuing to chip away at my paper.  I then made my final reservations to get from the airport to my hotel in Rome over the weekend before talking to some friends back home and then going to bed.
Wednesday, I slept in again before carrying out my morning routine and going to a 2 PM law class.  After law class, I finished up my paper before going for a short walk around Hyde Park and then taking the bus home.  Stopping at the grocery store to get the ingredients for my part of a Thanksgiving potluck, I then went home, ate, relaxed, and went to bed after watching Billy Madison.
Thursday, I went to school on Thanksgiving for the first time in my life, with my IR class scheduled for noon.  I got a paper back after that class, which was nice, but then went home to cook twice baked mashed potatoes for my friends.  We all had dinner at 6 PM local time together in my friends' flat, and then I retreated to my room, packed for Rome, and watched football until going to bed, having to get up early on Friday to go to Rome.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zurich: Days 62-64

Friday morning, I woke up late and went for my run before having a late breakfast/early lunch and then doing some work before finalizing my packing and heading down to Victoria station for my train to Gatwick Airport, which left at 3:30.  After arriving at the airport, I went through security and ate dinner before heading to my gate for a 6:15 flight which was delayed by half an hour.  But no matter.  I landed in Zurich at 9:30 local time.  The Zurich Airport is beautiful; a giant complex of glass and steel with floor-to-cieling windows and a train from the different terminals to the main building.  After going through passport control, I took a free shuttle bus to my hotel, which was right next to the airport and a tremendous value for how much money I paid.
Saturday, I was up by 7 in order to eat breakfast, a very nice Swiss spread that set me back 19 francs (about 21 USD), but was worth it as it filled me up for most of the day.  I then took a train from my hotel, in Kloten, into the heart of Zurich where my bus to Titlis, a mountain in the Alps, would leave from.  The start of the day didn't get off on that great a foot, either, because it was foggy and so I could not see any of the surrounding mountains.  On our way to Titlis, we stopped at several mountains and lakes as well as Lucerne, a small and peaceful city on a lake with water as clear as crystal.  Finally, at 2 PM, we began our ascent up Titlis in a gondola that took all the way to the top at 11,000 feet.  From the top, the views were absolutely spectacular - as far as the eye can see to the south are snow covered mountains and to the north are mountains that have escaped the cover of the snow (weird, I know).  I also got the chance to explore a cave inside a moving glacier before heading down the mountain and bussing back to Zurich as the sun set.  I grabbed dinner at a local cafe near Lake Zurich before heading back to the hotel and going to bed late.
I slept in on Sunday, eating breakfast at 10 and checking out of the hotel for my day of walking in the city.  That's literally all I did on Sunday - I walked around the city.  Up the east face of the lake, up the west face of the lake, through old town, through Chinese water gardens, along the river that feeds the lake, you name it.  I had a small bit of food before heading to the airport at 7:30 for my 9:30 flight.  Again, my flight was delayed, meaning that I didn't leave Zurich until almost 11 local time.  I landed at 11:30 london time with the hour gained, but it was still almost 1 AM by the time I arrived back in my flat and crashed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

London: Days 58-61

After my relaxing Sunday, I woke up early Monday morning in order to go for my run and then begin working on my papers, five of which I have to complete in the next four weeks before I come home.  After eating breakfast, I was downtown at the school building by 11 and got a great period of work in, which was refreshing and made me feel better about my ability to get it all done on time.  At 4:30, I went for a short walk before getting on the tube and heading home.  After buying groceries, I cooked dinner and did a little more work before heading to bed.
Tuesday I had to get up early again so that I could be at INSTEP in time for my classes, which stretched from 10:30 AM to 6 PM.  After class, I went home and cooked dinner, then heading out for a quick drink with a few friends.  After coming home, I booked a gondola trip to the top of Titlis in the Swiss Alps during my trip on to Zurich on Saturday.  After that was done, I went to bed with another early day on tap.
Wednesday was another class and work day, with my law session scheduled for 10 AM.  After grabbing lunch at a Pret at noon, I went back to the school building and sitting in on an Ethics class with some of my program-mates, which was about the Environment.  After class was over, I did a little bit more work on the paper before going home, cooking dinner, watching a movie, and going to bed.
I slept in late on Thursday, not needing to be downtown until 12:30 for my only class of the day.  Before I went to class, I had to go to the local UPS store to print out my airline tickets to go to Zurich and the ticket for my gondola trip into the Alps.  After class, I finished off one of my papers except for some final touches before going home, having dinner, and watching "Anchorman," which is a classic whenever you see it.  After a little reading, I watched the movie "Valkyrie," which I had never seen before, and was on TV, before heading to bed and getting ready for Switzerland.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Prague: Days 55-57

Thursday night when we landed in Prague at around 9 PM local time, we took a bus, the subway, and a tram in order to get to our hostel, which was on top of a big hill overlooking old town and underneath the famous castle, which was illuminated fully at night and was beautiful.  After setting up in our private four-bed room, we went to bed around midnight.
Friday morning we work up at 9:30 before grabbing an all you can eat breakfast for 75 Czech Koruna, which is the equivalent of about US $3.75.  Following breakfast, we made the walk down the hill and across the Charles Bridge, the oldest and fanciest bridge I have ever seen, into old town square for a free walking tour.  On our tour, given by a Hungarian guide named David, showed us all the famous sectors and areas of the city in two hours, giving us some great history along the way.  When that was over, we grabbed some street food in the big square, which was very good, before taking a paid tour of the Prague Castle itself, which is the oldest and biggest in Europe.  On that tour, we saw some incredible cathedrals and battlements in a building that started to be built in the 800s.  We also got to mess with the royal Czech guards, which don't even hold a candle next to the the guards at the English royal palaces but are still cool to look at.  By the time that tour was over, it was almost 5, and we then went for an early dinner with two kids we met from DePaul University.  We chose a small microbrewery in old town, and I had some delicious duck (for the first time), which came with some potato skins.  After dinner, we all went to a jazz club and listened to some fantastic live music until around midnight, at which point we walked back to our hostel.
Having stayed up late on Friday, we all slept in on Saturday before having some breakfast and heading across the river to old town at noon.  In old town, we went on a boat tour, which took us along the river and into some back canals which were really cool, especially with all the very old architecture that created them being above us.  After the boat tour we had a small lunch before walking to the very top of the tallest hill in the city to a big metronome, which ticks back and forth where a statue of Joseph Stalin once stood but was blown up in the 60s.  By that time it was 4, and in order to make the most of our last night we continued to walk around the city until 7.  At 7, we went to a local restaurant near our hostel, where I had schnitzel for the first time in my life (it was delicious).  Having to get up early on Sunday for our flight home, we were all in bed by 11.
Sunday was a travel day, and by the time we all got back to London all I wanted to to was take a run, eat dinner, and watch football.  I executed that plan to perfection, ready to get up early on Monday to try and knock out some of the work that I have to do in the next 27 days.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

London, Days 51-54

Monday morning dawned ice cold, so I slept in a little bit until it warmed up before heading out on my run.  After eating breakfast and watching some US election coverage, which was very good in the UK, I went downtown in order to begin working on my second set of papers, due in only four weeks.  I worked until around 5 before going for a short walk and then heading back to the apartment to eat dinner.  Following dinner, I did a little bit more work and chatted with friends before going to bed.
Tuesday, I had to get up early in order to fit my run in before class, which I had from 10 until 6.  After returning home following my classes, I ate dinner and did a little bit of grocery shopping before working on my papers some more and beginning to watch election coverage as the results crept in.  I went to bed with Mitt Romney in the lead about 33-3 in electoral votes, as it was 1 AM my time at that point and I was exhausted - but I was also totally unsure about who was going to win.
I got up at 7 London time in order to check the results and again in order to fit my run in before my 10 AM class.  After class let out at noon, I got a small bite of lunch before doing some more work on one of my papers as I tried to knock some of it out with a busy final month abroad.  That lasted until about 4:30, at which point I took another walk in Hyde Park before heading home on the tube, eating, and packing for Prague.  After watching a movie, I went to bed at 11.
Thursday morning I slept in before going for my run and eating some brunch.  After finalizing my packing, I headed down to class, from which I left for my trip to the Czech Republic directly at 2 PM.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paris: Days 48-50

Late on Thursday night, the friends with which I was heading to Paris and I went to the bus station at Victoria, in London near where my school meets to begin our journey.  The bus took us to a ferry service in Dover where we crossed the English Channel to France.  The ferry was massive, probably 600 feet in length and wide enough to carry buses and cars 20 across.  The crossing took around 90 minutes, but the best part was that as we were leaving Dover to get to France, the moonlight was such that we could see the famous white cliffs of Dover, which were shiny even at night.  In the distance, we could also see storms in the open ocean.
We got to France at 3 AM local time, and got back on the bus to sleep until we arrived in Porte Maillot on the western side of Paris at 8 AM.  From the bus station in Paris, we walked around for a little while before having breakfast and checking in to our respective hotels.  After checking in, we went on a walking tour of the city despite the rain, making stops at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, different parks, Napoleons tomb, and Notre Dame.  By that time it was around 3, and we went back to our hotels to rest for a bit before meeting for dinner at 8 in Bastille.  We found a really nice and inexpensive restaurant in a back road, which had delicious food.  After eating, we went for a walk around the Bastille square and had real crepes before heading off to bed.
I slept in until 9 on Saturday morning, planning on meeting some friends from high school for the day - one of which was in Paris studying abroad and another who was visiting.  Luckily, it was an absolutely beautiful day despite a bad forecast, which was a substantial improvement from the day before.  I met them for lunch in the Saint-Michel part of the city, near Notre Dame, and we had a small lunch in a nice cafe before going on another walk.  We saw Notre Dame again before visiting Saint-Chappelle, the lock-lovers bridge, and Pont-Nuf.  We then walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, stopping at the famous Laduree bake shop and having some French macarons which were delicious.  After finishing our walk along the Champs-Elysees, we went to the Eiffel Tower again to see it at night, which I had not done, and go up. The top was closed, but we still were able to go to the middle, which is pretty high, and got some good pictures and views.  By the time we came down, it was time for me to go back to the bus station and go home.
I arrived in London at 7 AM Sunday morning and slept for a bit before going for a run and relaxing after a tiring weekend.  I closed the day, and the week, by watching some football and then heading to an early sleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

London: Days 44-47

Monday was a busy day, as I did my best to keep up with what was going on with Hurricane Sandy while also finishing off the papers that I had due on Tuesday.  I spent the majority of the day downtown at the school building, typing my way through a final 1,000 words and then going for a walk.  After finishing my work, I went home and watched the news before relaxing with friends, eating, and going to bed.
Tuesday was a class day, as I had sessions all day from 10 to 6 following my run and eating breakfast.  I also sent in my absentee ballot.  After class was over, I went home and ate dinner before doing a little bit of reading.  But the best part of the day was going to Marble Arch to watch the new James Bond movies, Skyfall, with two friends.  We went to a late showing, around 10:30, and the movie was very good - I won't say anything more because the movie has yet to come out in the States.
Wednesday I woke up to some terribly fascinating pictures from the Hurricane, as it ravaged my grandfather's house on the Jersey Shore.  I woke up extra early to sort through some of the pictures before going for my run and eating, then going downtown to finish the papers that I had due on Thursday.  After finishing that up, I went home and packed for my trip to Paris the following night.
Thursday dawned bright and cold, and I went for my run early before going to print my papers for submission.  In class, we watched movie called "Catfish," which was about fake Facebook identities and was actually quite scary.  After classes were over, I went home and ate before finishing off packing and heading downtown to London Victoria Coach Station for my bus, under the chunnel, to Paris at 9:30.